April 19, 2016

Don't Tell, Don't Tell, Don't Tell

by Liane Shaw
Second Story Press
272 pp.
Ages 12-16
April 2016

Frederick, 16, in Don’t Tell, Don’t Tell, Don’t Tell, would loathe to be lumped into a group of individuals with Asperger’s syndrome or labelled with his “disorder”.
Giving me a label groups me together with many others who share a cerain number of common characteristics that would then define me as a syndrome or a disorder rather than a person with a mind of my own.  I don’t want to be a syndrome, and I am far too orderly to be a disorder.
     I just want to be me.
(pg. 50)
Though Frederick is different from many of his peers in his love of numbers and math, of routines, and of the dictionary and in the difficulties he has interpreting idioms and slang with which he is unfamilia, he is relatively comfortable in his own skin, having developed some stellar coping strategies for dealing with verbal abuse,  and ensuring that he is able to meet his needs for quiet and routines.  But, when he is befriended by another awkward teen, his routine becomes far more  tenuous and Frederick is taken outside his comfort zone.

Don’t Tell, Don’t Tell, Don’t Tell begins with Frederick being questioned by the police about the disappearance of the teen who’d befriended him, Angel Martinez.  Though their friendship had been discreet and primarily involved Angel using Frederick as a sounding board, Frederick gets lassoed into keeping a secret for her.  Questioning by the police, however, has Frederick carefully choosing his words, always reminding himself “Don’t tell, don’t tell, don’t tell.” When it seems that Angel’s secret plan isn’t as perfect as anticipated, Frederick begins to rethink that promise and find a way to stay true to himself and bring order to a very disordered situation.

The mature situations that have Angel scrambling for a way out makes Don’t Tell, Don’t Tell, Don’t Tell more appropriate for a young adult audience but the issue of labelling and keeping secrets are far more universal.  Liane Shaw, whose previous books Fostergirls (Second Story Press, 2011) and The Color of Silence (Second Story Press, 2013) capably dealt with difficult issues of foster care and guilt, continues to demonstrate the empathy needed to understand and help teens with the emotional, behavioural and physical problems.  Don’t Tell, Don’t Tell, Don’t Tell takes us into the world of a boy with Asperger’s and a girl whose efforts to make friends take a bad turn and demonstrates that we all are looking to find a way to fit into the world, whether it’s a world we make for ourselves or one into which we try to insinuate ourselves.

(A version of this review, in conjunction with one about Everyday Hero by Kathleen Cherry, was originally written for and published in Quill & Quire, as noted in the citation below.)

Kubiw, H. (2016, May). [Review of the book Don't Tell, Don't Tell, Don't Tell by Liane Shaw]. Quill & Quire, 82 (4): 37.

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